As mentioned in Contemporary Urban Planning by John M. Levy, Cities will develop regardless if they’re designed or not. In many cases, the most beautiful cities weren’t built with a design but by plain growth. For example, New York City wasn’t built in the same way that cities such as Paris or Washington DC were built. Until recently, New York never had “Squares” or “Plazas” with open space. Places like Times Square and Union Square existed, but weren’t pedestrian friendly and even dangerous. In contrast, Paris and Washington both were developed with design and planning laws.
Pictured above is Les Champs Elysees, a major avenue in Paris. As we can see there are Tree-lined streets and wide piazza style sidewalks for pedestrians to enjoy. Not only does everything look much more beautiful, safety is also a major benefit of a well planned/designed city. With a design like this, pedestrians are protected by a barrier of trees. As a result of this street design, many Parisians take siestas at night and take time to enjoy their lives, rather than just rushing to get home and stay locked indoors.
A well designed city pushes the limits of what city life can be. One of the major benefits of living in a city is having access to so many things without having to travel far. However for many cities, this means having to deal with densely packed neighborhoods, poorly lit streets, and nothing but concrete to look at. These are great situations in which design will definitely help bring beauty to cities. It’s one thing to live in a densely populated area with nothing but residential neighborhoods and an occasional park thrown in, and it’s a whole different story living in a well designed, beautifully taken care of neighborhood with nearby parks, piazzas, fountains and other public monuments.
A prime example of this is Battery Park City in New York City. Unlike the rest of the city, Battery Park City was constructed quite recently and doesn’t follow “The Grid”. In fact, it was built on a landfill on Lower Manhattan’s west side. As is shown in the picture above, BPC follows a Le Corbusier “Park-like Setting”and also contains a riverfront promenade, for pedestrians and cyclists. All in all, it’s very important not to overlook Urban Design for our cities and towns in the future. We need to ensure that with proper planning, many of today’s inner city problems can be solved.